'Decisions must be made on the basis of evidence alone'
Weak evidence means Horne is not guilty, judge decides
Ed Horne will remain a free man.
Justice Robert Kilpatrick found Horne not guilty March 3 on 10 counts relating to sex offences alleged to have taken place as far back as 1971 in Cape Dorset, Iqaluit, Kimmirut and Sanikiluaq.
Kilpatrick issued his written decision March 6.
The Crown did not produce enough evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the former schoolteacher committed the alleged offences and too much time had passed, Kilpatrick wrote.
"Some citizens may believe that judges or juries possess an innate ability to somehow sort things out," Kilpatrick wrote. "This is a fiction. A court does not possess divine insight into the soul of witnesses who testify in a legal proceeding. Decisions must be made on the basis of evidence alone, not intuition or guesswork."
Four male complainants, all now adults, alleged Horne molested them at schools where he taught in the 1970s and 1980s.
The only witnesses called by the Crown during trial were the complainants, who frequently said under cross-examination they couldn't remember details of the alleged abuse.
"As a matter of law, the Crown is not required to call any evidence to corroborate the evidence of a complainant in a case involving a sexual offence," Kilpatrick wrote. "As a practical matter however, such evidence may sometimes become necessary to move the Crown's case beyond mere suspicion, to proof beyond a reasonable doubt."
The evidence from the complainants wasn't strong enough to support the charges, Kilpatrick wrote. And the passage of time meant no forensic evidence exists to help corroborate the allegations.
"The quantity and quality of the evidence available to the Crown in this trial has been weakened by the passage of time," Kilpatrick wrote. "The fairness of the trial process itself has been impaired because of significant delay."
During the trial, held in Iqaluit last month, defence lawyer Tom Boyd suggested the complainants were motivated by media reports that 82 of Horne's victims each received an average of $250,000 in compensation as part of civil settlement with the governments of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories.
In his verdict, Kilpatrick noted all four complainants made their first criminal allegations after news of the civil suit against the two governments became public in September 2001.
One witness, under arrest in 2002, had no complaints about Horne when asked by an RCMP officer. But the witness later had several meetings with lawyer Geoffrey Budden, who's spearheading a new civil suit against the two governments.
"It strains credibility to believe that the subject was not discussed during these meetings," Kilpatrick wrote.
John Solski, head of Nunavut's public prosecution service, said it is too early to know if the Crown would appeal the verdict. He said would expected a decision within a month.
Solski said he appreciated Kilpatrick's difficulty in reaching guilty verdicts without corroborating evidence.
"It's basically a situation where people say a certain thing happened, the accused person denies it and I think basically what the court said is…‘how can I make a decision and be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that something happened?'" Solski said.
Reached in Toronto, Horne had nothing to say about last week's verdict.
"On the basis of legal advice I must respectfully decline to make any public statements at this time," Horne wrote in an email.